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Toni Atkins, Senate president pro tem: Why should Californians vote for Pete Buttigieg in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary? He’s the right Democrat to take on Donald Trump.

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By Toni Atkins, Special to CalMatters

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins is a Democrat who represents Senate District 39 in San Diego, She wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

We have the chance to set things right in this presidential election. And it is important we choose wisely.

Californians need to nominate someone who can not only beat one of the most well-funded election machines in our country’s history, but who can also unite this nation.

We need a candidate who will bring us back to the finest of our founding principles while propelling us to meet the challenges of the future. One candidate running truly measures up to this moment: Pete Buttigieg.

Mayor Pete represents a politics that brings people of all walks under the same banner. His campaign is predicated upon the principle of belonging, and it shows in his policies. When he talks about economic empowerment, it is not just through some academic lens, but with a clear-eyed view of how plans and policies will affect people on the ground.

As a former city council member and acting mayor, I appreciate that realistic approach. And as someone who grew up in a rural part of America that was under-served and over-promised, I appreciate the mayor’s thoughtful proposals to ensure all communities receive the benefits generated by new economies.

Pete Buttigieg served in the military in Afghanistan, so he knows first-hand the cost of war. As someone who represents an area filled with military personnel and installations, I appreciate the fact that in Mayor Buttigieg, our men and women in uniform will have a Commander-In-Chief who treats the military and our responsibilities with the sober seriousness they demand.

The way Mayor Buttigieg  has run his campaign shows me what type of president he would be. His campaign’s senior staff includes 40% people of color and 50% women, with 28% of staff who identify as LGBTQ+. That looks a lot more like the America I know than the current White House staff.

Mayor Buttigieg policies that affect communities of color were all written by members of those communities, not consultants. While he is undeniably a gifted speaker, he also has shown that he prefers to lead by listening, and certainly not by tweeting.

When I first moved to San Diego, I worked in a women’s health clinic. Every day, we faced vitriolic protesters determined to bully women out of their rights. I believe Mayor Buttigieg would not only continue the fight for full equality and the protection of our rights, but would do so with a calmness and morality that stands firm in the face of the rage and vitriol that has been encouraged to fester these past three years.

Under Donald Trump, we have seen entire religious groups banned entry into this country, rights stripped from our transgender military personnel, the free press in peril, and two extremist judges rammed through the confirmation process to the Supreme Court. Their decisions shape the law for a generation.

In the space of three years, our country has been ripped apart. The rule of law teeters on a precipice, and the only values coming from this White House are greed and cynicism that is infecting American life. Enough is enough.

As someone who has led efforts to push back against the Trump Administration attacks on our economy, our environment and our people, I know Mayor Buttigieg will work with California, and not against us, especially when it comes to the crucial issue of climate change.

Rather than retreating from the world, he is ready to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and take even bolder action here at home. As the most populous state in the nation, and a global leader on climate change, we deserve a true partner in the White House.

Some of the criticisms I’ve seen of Pete Buttigieg—-too young, too new to the national scene—we’ve seen before. But I am eternally grateful America did the right thing and elected new young leaders like John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. All three were considered too new, but they inspired a nation and created transformative change.

Pete Buttigieg is the right leader for our time. He is offering Americans something that has been in short supply these last three years, intelligence, strength and dignity. I hope you will join me in supporting Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic primary on March 3.


Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins is a Democrat who represents Senate District 39 in San Diego, She wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

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